Updated Jul 28, 2012 - 10:00 am
It's time we revisited calcium supplements
I have written about this, mentioned it more than once on my radio show and commented on this matter on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Simply put, I can see no reason, other than a laboratory demonstrated calcium deficiency -- typically a sign of other disease -- that anyone should be supplementing their diet with calcium liquid, chewables or pills.
Taking calcium does not, in and of itself, treat or prevent osteoporosis or osteopenia (loss of calcium and strength in the bone), no matter the cause. Calcium does not grow stronger teeth. Do you need calcium? Yes you do, but not as a supplement!
There is growing evidence (enough for me already to make this statement) that calcium, when consumed in large quantities (perhaps even 500 mg or less), is not handled by the body in the same way that small incremental amounts from the diet are managed. The result is that taking supplements appears to be associated with increased arterial calcifications, and, as such, with increased risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, heart attack and possibly stroke!
The caveat is that any scientist will qualify their remarks by saying "more studies are needed" and "ask your doctor" (Whose brain, by the way, is flooded with spin from the companies that make calcium). Sadly, it is more than likely that your doctor has no idea about very much when it comes to nutrition.
An average American (yes, even if you are post menopausal woman) can get all of the calcium you need from a decent diet. Here is a good guideline from Web MD as to the foods rich in calcium:
• Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, yogurt and cheese. • Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and crimini mushrooms. • Beans: For another rich source of calcium, try black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas or baked beans. • Herbs and spices: For a small but tasty calcium boost, flavor your food with basil, thyme, dill weed, cinnamon, peppermint leaves, garlic, oregano, rosemary and parsley. • Other foods: More good sources of calcium include salmon, tofu, oranges, almonds, sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses and sea vegetables. Don't forget about calcium-fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice.
You might want to look at my blog titled I Come Out Of the Closet. While milk products do have calcium, I am not all pleased with milk products in our diet. Remember, we are the only species that consumes the milk of other species! It is not natural! But, it is subject for another discussion. Right now, I would like to keep you away from calcium supplements, which is very important for your health.
Now, you will ask why it is that pharmacy and health food store shelves are filled with calcium supplements? If calcium is such a big danger, then why does the FDA allow it to be sold and why don't the manufacturers of this billion-plus dollar industry yank the products off there shelves of retail stores?
First, there is still wiggle room about the data supporting the argument that calcium supplementation is dangerous. It will take years (and a number of dead Americans, by the way) to have the "final" proof. In that time, the companies will rake in billions of dollars.
Next, it is none too popular for Americans to actually control their diets when they can take a pill, any pill, for any reason. You think that I am exaggerating?
Acetaminophen (generic name for Tylenol) may be the single biggest cause for irreversible liver failure and associated deaths in the world. But, has it be taken off the market? Has it been made a prescription product? Do you have friends taking it down at the least sign of headache, fever or pain of any kind?
But, this is about calcium you say. Why is Benjamin pulling acetaminophen into this discussion? What is the connection?
Well, it is about calcium. But, in health care, there is a broader lesson: money talks, nobody walks!
Dr. Sam Benjamin, M.D. - Integrative Medicine, weekend show host